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West End BIA focuses on beautification

'Keeping Davie St queer is probably number one for all of us': Derzai

West End BIA executive director Lyn Hellyar told Xtra the Davie Village rainbow banners will remain intact, at the BIA's AGM on June 30. But there will be no BIA Pride float this year. Credit: Sarah Race photo

The West End Business Improvement Association’s new board members, though not gay themselves, acknowledged the importance of respecting the gay village at the association’s annual general meeting on June 30.

“It’s absolutely important,” says Wendy Derzai of the Donnelly Group. “Being in the BIA, we discuss it all the time. The importance of keeping Davie St queer is probably number one for all of us.”

“It’s a part of the history, it’s a part of the city, and it needs to be recognized,” agrees Kathy Ross of PHresh Spa.

Ross, Derzai, property owner Marco Deghani and John Nicholson of Listel Properties are all new to the West End BIA board this year. They join directors David Buddle of Prima Properties, Michel Duprat of the Fountainhead Pub, Brinder Bains of Cobs Bread and Robert Graham of Momentum Grooming.

With only two of the eight directors hailing from the gay community, lesbian West End BIA member and Qmunity representative Anne-Marie Wallace says she hopes the board will become more queer in the future.

“I’m not so sure that I think there is enough [gay representation],” she says, adding that non-profits are also underrepresented in the BIA.

Budget reviews and the association’s annual report were discussed during the short annual general meeting, and a plan to keep the West End clean and tidy was high on the agenda. Executive director Lyn Hellyar told members that while the city has a certain responsibility to keep neighbourhoods clean, the BIA will be taking matters into its own hands.

“We want the West End cleaned up, and we don’t want to wait for the city,” she says. “They’re not getting a lot of the stuff done that they normally get done.”

A newly implemented three-person BIA street team will be tasked with keeping the West End clean, Hellyar says.

Last year, the BIA disbanded its ambassador program and replaced it with a full-time street team to patrol the West End by bike and on foot seven days a week, at an estimated cost of $156,000 over the next fiscal year.

“It’s our responsibly to make our space beautiful, and if somebody else isn’t going to do it, then we’re going to do it,” Hellyar says, noting that the West End BIA has jointly purchased a gum-removal machine with the downtown BIA to help keep streets clean.

The West End BIA’s operating budget is expected to grow by $60,000, from $637,635 this year to a draft budget of nearly $700,000 for 2012/2013.

While there is funding allocated to keeping the West End clean, Hellyar says the BIA has no money to participate in Pride events.

“We are going to provide some money, but because of our budget we have to be very careful on how it’s divvied up,” she says, adding that since the 2007 expansion of the Davie Village BIA into one that covers the entire West End, some members have felt Davie St is often over-represented in the association.

Hellyar says the BIA plans to give the Vancouver Pride Society $2,000 but will not have a float in this year’s parade. Nor will it be donating money to the Vancouver Outgames.

As for the Davie Village rainbow banners, Hellyar says they will remain intact.

“They are staying,” she promises.

“It’s important that they be there,” Wallace says. “They signify who we are and what’s important in our community. It’s the Davie Village; it’s the queer village.”

The BIA also hosted an appreciation awards ceremony following its annual general meeting, in which local drag star Joan-E was honoured for her contribution to the community and her participation in the BIA’s annual Davie Days celebration.